Have you ever wanted to tell someone something but the words never came? Maybe you were embarrassed or got busy but the moment didn’t arrive. And then it was too late. And you have regrets. This happened to me recently. Here are 6 things I wish I had told Joyce, my mother-in-law.
You amazed me– From the first moment my future husband Randy introduced us in the late 70’s, I was impressed by your style and glamour. I was a junior in college and you were forty-something, lounging on a chaise in your Connecticut backyard. I remember brown hair, long legs and coral-colored toenails.
I wasn’t surprised to learn you’d been Homecoming Queen in Texas. You were statuesque and beautiful, an exotic southern bird transferred to Yankee Connecticut through your husband’s career. You smiled, held out your hand. “I’m Joyce,” you said in your honeyed twang. Little did we know the long journey that awaited us.
You taught me– As a young bride you showed me how to cook Steak with Brandy sauce, Chicken and Dumplings and Seafood soup with shrimp and scallops. You loved entertaining and set a beautiful table with individual salt and peppershakers and small, personal wine carafes.
You loved champagne and Pouilly-Fuissé white burgundy, yet weren’t above an occasional Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner or fast-food burger. In public you always wore full make-up and French manicures and dressed in the latest styles. You wore “Jungle Gardenia” perfume and whenever I catch that scent, I think of you.
You inspired me – You moved back to Houston in the 80’s and lived large. On birthdays and holidays you always sent Randy and me and our boys heaps of clothes, toys, books, a container of See’s candy and sometimes Texas barbecue. You loved to make a big pot of chili for the Super Bowl and invite friends over.
You travelled and enjoyed theater, good restaurants, Bridge, and college football. You went to church each Sunday. You were a devoted only child to your mother. You threw her a huge 80th birthday party where you stood with trembling voice giving a tribute that left not a dry eye in the house. I admired your courage.
You influenced me– You had tough times over the years, but they never kept you down. You forgave. You never stopped loving life. You cared for others. You always told me, “Helping people helps me, Laurie. That’s the only thing that keeps my spirits up sometimes.”
When you were voted one of Houston’s top 100 volunteers last year, I wasn’t surprised. You were always there to take dinner to an ailing neighbor or give words of comfort. You kept friends for years and decades. You loved animals and innocence and beauty. You avoided cruelty and conflict.
You loved me– During the decades, sometimes we had smooth sailing. Sometimes there were bumps and tension. I’m an introverted New Englander. You were an outgoing Texan. We were both strong-willed women who like to control. Sometimes I wondered if you wished your son had married a nice southern girl, but if you did, you never let on.
If you were angry or depressed, you never showed it. When I was frustrated, I wasn’t always able to keep it inside. However, every time we said goodbye you remarked, “You make my son so happy. I’m so glad you’re his wife.” You didn’t have to say those words, but you did.
You impressed me – Right up till the end you were brave and dignified. The last time I hugged you, at almost 85 years, I had to be careful because of the pain pack taped to your back. The cancer had spread.
We looked into each other’s eyes and I thought of that first moment we met almost 40 years back when you were that former Homecoming Queen and I that long-haired English major. Somehow over these years, we made it work, you and me, in our own way.
And now you’re gone. I want to believe you drifted off easy and somewhere George, your late husband, the love of your life, was waiting. “Bootsy,” he’d say in his drawl, the nickname he gave you, the one he’d never tell what it meant.
I hope you found peace, Joyce. I hope you know how much I’ll miss you. I hope you know how much I loved you.
I hope you understand how the words never came.
How do you feel about your mother-in-law? Comments are always welcome. Thank you for reading and sharing.